“There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell. You have to hold it in your hands and pray to it. You put it in your pocket and you walk with it. And it stays with you forever.”
- Ray Bradbury
Let me guess. You never quite fit in. But you weren’t an outsider like they were. You weren’t a nerd. You weren’t a geek. You never got bullied or picked on. You were just kind of invisible. You’re the kind of person no one ever talks about. You weren’t popular. You weren’t the isolated freak sitting in the corner by yourself either. You were the one who sat at the lunch table with the ordinary kids. No one popular. No one weird. You were part of the kids who were just kind of “there”, but nobody ever cared or noticed if you were there or not. You were the recluse with companions. The loner in a crowd. You had more acquaintances than friends, but not too many of either. Your parents never hurt you or abused you, they just kind of left you alone. Your friends never took you out on your birthday, because none of them ever knew when it was. Nobody ever asked. You got invited to parties. Sometimes. When they remembered you existed. But when you didn’t show up, nobody missed you. You were never there, even when you were standing right in front of them.
Sometimes, you think, if you became a criminal, you could confess to all your crimes on the Internet, and never get arrested. Because no one has ever paid attention to anything you do.
Seems like you almost get hit by a car everytime you walk out of the house, because the world always fails to notice you until the last possible second.
Reading became your glorious escape. Not from an awful life, because your life was never awful, just from one where you were dying because you were already a ghost among the living.
In books, you are alive again. Inside those stories, there are people who feel things. Understand things. Express things. Have emotions. Dreams. Desires. In stories are the friends you wished you had. The kind of people you long to hang out with. The kind who uphold the morality you attempt to preserve. Honorable. Loyal. Devoted. Virtuous. True. Fun. Passionate. Hilarious. Crazy. Alive. More alive upon those pages than any real people you ever see and certainly more alive than you ever permit yourself to be.
The most thrilling part, was the magic of the words. Unread pages in a book seem to be a maelstrom of letters. A swirling whirlpool of possibilities. Anything could happen. Like life itself, you never know where the path will lead. The very first time you read a book it glimmers with the endless magic of any possible future. The characters are living and breathing souls. Every moment is a looking glass into a real world, a real life, where nothing is imaginary at all. You feel the wind in your hair and hear their voices in your ear. You are there. Living the story with them. Only after we read the words do they become solidified. Only after we read the words do they become frozen on the page. Locked into an immovable position for all time.
Books are only imaginary the second time. The first time you read them, they are absolutely real.
Those of you so young you’ve not yet seen the inside of a high school, so new to reading you’ve only just begun to see the spellbinding of bookbindings, may be wondering how the magic works. Why do you look for unpopular books? You’re not like your friends. Sure, when you found your fellow readers, you thought they were like-minded, but they read all those bestsellers. They read what everyone else reads. You don’t. You never do. Why? Why do you intuitively seek out the stories that are not on the bestseller lists?
Here is why.
You, my friends, are gifted. That isn’t a pandering lie that gentle souls tell to lost souls. Those who seek magic, like you, are gifted. That’s why you seek it. You’ve always known that. What is it you always say? You don’t know everything, you just know more than everyone. You don’t think you are better than everyone else. You know you are. Yes, all your life, people have told you that “everyone is special” and everyone has meaning, but, come on, who are we kidding? You know that’s not true. It has never been true. There are souls of this world who are of the darkness. Ones who are empty of mind and spirit. And they are not your equal. You are a being of light and skybound radiance. You are above them. There are beings among us who are the elite and you know who you are. Those inferior denizens who ignorantly profess superiority to be determined by race or wealth or religion or bloodlines or intellect are too far below you to acknowledge. I know who you are. And so do you.
The magic is not a game for you. It’s certainly not some phony fortune teller or deceitful tarot reading and it’s never been explained in a new age bookstore. All the Abrahamic fiction in scriptures of vindictive gods have hidden it. Real magic has never been inscribed in a textbook or taught in a pagan hippie classroom. Rituals and charms and sacraments and ceremonies and gnostic glyphs are for amateurs. When you are a Seer among The Chosen, there is never a need for dogmas or initiations or spellbinding incantations, for the magic is innate in your very breath.
Books are decanters of wonderment. Each holds their own waters of magic. The more who drink from those waters, the less water remains, the more tainted the elixir becomes for all those lips touching the brim, and in time, the decanter is left with nothing but a sheen. All the magic drained away.
This is why the unknown books work better. This is why you are drawn to them. This is why those novels whisper to you. This is why you see the characters so clearly. This is why they come to your dreams. This is why they make the strange noises in your house. The thunderstorms. The lights flickering out down your block. The fewer souls who drink of the decanter, the stronger your connection to the magic will be.
That is why you naturally gravitate to read the novels no one has ever heard of.
For you, reading will never be about the camaraderie felt by book clubs who read what’s popular. For you, reading is about a magic they have never seen. Reading is about opening the gateway. Finding the key to the gardens and locking the door behind you. Adventure belongs unto thee. Quests are solitary. This isn’t a group effort. This mission is yours and yours alone.
You already know all this. I’m not teaching you anything you haven’t always known instinctively. You already know everything I’m talking about, even though you’ve never spoken of this to a single soul. Because you know they’d all think you’re crazy. Wouldn’t they? You’d end up being the only one at the lunch table. So, this is something you keep to yourself. No one else would ever believe you. Would they? They have never lived the magic as you have, because their books are lifeless. Their books have been squeezed bone dry. Their books have lost all their magic. Perhaps most never had it to begin with.
You know where to find it. And you’re keeping your little secret.
How do I know all this? You know it’s not just because I have been in the garden before you. Not just because I know the path to magic as well.
How do I know the magic so well? I’m a novelist. You think I don’t know how the magic works? I’m the conduit who conjures it. The ink which invokes the spell is the ghost of my marrow.
Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you’re better than them. Not everyone is special. But always remember that you are. Stick to the path. Remain pure. Hold to the magic. We’re out gunned. We don’t stand a chance. There are far more of the magicless normals than there are of us. In the end, we’re going to lose. The battle was never ours to win. But be comforted in knowing, the rest of your tribe is out there. Though there be very few of them. But, like you, they keep fighting the good fight. They keep holding vigil for lost hopes and defying the mad gods. And one day, perhaps not until your very last day, they shall call us home.
“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”
- Neil Gaiman